Author promotes video as a useful vehicle of worship
January 11 2002 by Greg Warner , Associated Baptist Press

Author promotes video as a useful vehicle of worship | Friday, Jan. 11, 2002

Friday, Jan. 11, 2002

Author promotes video as a useful vehicle of worship

By Greg Warner Associated Baptist Press DENVER - Sally Morgenthaler foresees a day when digital video will be used as frequently and naturally in worship services as the hymnal ever was. Making the visual element an integral part of worship is a passion for Morgenthaler, a popular speaker and author on worship.

Visual worship isn't just about cool gadgets or being culturally relevant, she said in an interview with the Christian lifestyle magazine FaithWorks. It's about giving Christians full-sensory freedom to experience the presence of God, and for most congregations it's a long way off.

While many churches already use multimedia in worship, it is most often to support a verbal message. Sermon outlines, song texts and movie clips are used as illustrations for the spoken sermon, which still is the main focus of worship.

But that limits the power of visual technology as a vehicle for the gospel message in its own right, Morgenthaler said.

Like other worship planners, Morgenthaler said she is "guilty of using (visual) resources to support the idea of Christ and not the person."

Instead of using video "just to stuff more information into people's heads," she said, "I want to use video to help people experience the person of God through Jesus Christ."

That distinction says volumes about a church's philosophy of worship, she said. A didactic, linear approach in worship is a "way to deliver a concept." A sensory, multimedia approach, in contrast, "invite you into the grand story."

Western Christians are so conditioned to present the gospel as a rational argument that they view other elements of worship as supplementing the sermon, Morgenthaler said. But that ignores the powerful role the visual can play in transformation.

Pictures not only tell stories with incredible emotional power, but they can even serve a liturgical purpose, she said. For example, a scripture passage about the constancy of God could be paired with a video of waves continually crashing on the shore. If used without verbal commentary, she said, the video functions "parallel to the passage, and it's not didactic." By adding a visual experience of constancy, the video expands the message of the scripture.

Morgenthaler, whose 1996 book, Worship Evangelism, is becoming a contemporary classic, is completing a new book, The Uncharted Now, which explores worship in the emerging culture.

While examples are rare, Morgenthaler said a new visual-worship resource from Highway Video is the type that can make video an integral part of worship.

Highway, based in the Silicon Valley, recently released Vibe Videos, a collection of short generic videos for worship. They are more poetic than didactic, visually expounding broad themes like water, sunlight, the Cross and worship symbols. They come in DVD or VHS formats, with or without subtle text that supports the theme. They can stand alone to create "ambiance." Or they can accompany live music, serve as an offertory, or enhance communion, all to add texture.

"They're more ethereal," said Joe Perez, a producer on Highway's three-man team. "They're kind of like visual wallpaper. The beauty is in the simplicity."

Javad Shadzi, Highway's marketing director, agrees with Morgenthaler about video's potential to be worship, not just support it. "The visual arts can communicate a point or the visual arts can be the experience," he said.

But Highway is not pushing the Vibe Videos as "liturgy" or stand-alone experience. "We are all for video being the experience too, but it's hard to mass produce that," Shadzi said. "The last thing we want to do is mass produce and sell spirituality.

"Generally, we have used video to supplement 'standard' teaching and worship, as opposed to Sally's approach of video being the content or teaching," he said. "Getting pastors to even supplement their teaching with a video is a big enough chore. ... But as more and more worship leaders experiment with video, that could quickly change."

The Vibe Videos are a new direction for Highway Video, which also produces on-the-street interviews, short dramas, thematic commentaries and music videos, all for use in worship and other group settings.

Highway, which started as a video team at Highway Community Church in Palo Alto, Calif., is one of a very few companies that are producing original video for worship, and trying to make a living at it.

"I have no talent other than just seeing the world funky," said Travis Reed, founder, president and producer, whose offbeat humor has been part of Highway's trademark. While quality production is important, they say, telling stories is where the real power of video lies. "We try not to get hung up on the technology - it's storytelling," Shadzi said.

Church media ministries tend to attract the techies, Shadzi added, but the storytellers are the ones who really need to be involved.

"The (medieval) church used to commission the greatest artists to tell its story," he said. Visual worship in part is about bringing art back into the church, he added, "because God created it and it works. It gives people a deeper connection."

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1/11/2002 12:00:00 AM by Greg Warner , Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments
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